Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad
271 U.S. 500 (1926)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad, 271 U.S. 500 (1926)

Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad

No. 623

Argued April 12, 13, 1926

Decided June 7, 1926

271 U.S. 500

Syllabus

1. The Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands has discretionary jurisdiction, under § 516, Philippine Code of Civil Procedure, to determine the validity of a new penal statute seriously affecting numerous persons and extensive property interests, by a writ of prohibition against criminal proceedings under it in the Court of First Instance, rather than await judgment in those proceedings and determine the question on review, in the usual way. P. 271 U. S. 507.

2. Act No. 2972 of the Philippine legislature, approved February 21, 1921, making it a crime, punishable by fine and imprisonment, for any person engaged in business for profit in the Islands to keep his account books in any language other than English, Spanish, or any local dialect must be taken as absolutely prohibiting Chinese merchants from keeping any accounts in their own language and writing. P. 271 U. S. 517.

3. This is made plain by the history as well as the language of the enactment. P. 271 U. S. 513.

4. The Act is not susceptible of a construction limiting its requirement to the keeping of such account books in English, Spanish, or the Filipino dialects, as would be reasonably adapted to the needs of the taxing officials in preventing and detecting evasions of the local sales tax and other taxes, but leaving the Chinese merchant free to keep books also in Chinese. P. 271 U. S. 515.

5. The duty of a court to construe an act of legislation in harmony with the fundamental law does not authorize the court to depart from the plain terms and intention of a statute, and thus in effect to make a new law. P. 271 U. S. 518.

6. Especially is such a departure objectionable when the result is to introduce uncertainty into the meaning of a highly penal statute. Id.

7. The court may not, in a criminal statute reduce its generally inclusive terms by construction so as to limit its application to that class of cases which it was within the power of the legislature to enact, and thus save the statute from invalidity. P. 271 U. S. 522.

Page 271 U. S. 501

8. On a question of the construction of the Philippine Code of Procedure adopted by the United States Philippine Commission, this Court, in reviewing a decision of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, may exercise its independent judgment. P. 271 U. S. 522.

9. The application of American constitutional limitations to a Philippine statute dealing with the rights of persons living under the government established there by the United States is not a local one, especially when the persons are the subject of another sovereignty with which the United States has made a treaty for protection of their rights. P. 271 U. S. 523.

10. The limitations in the Philippine Bill of Rights are to be enforced in the light of the construction by this Court of such limitations as recognized by it since the foundation of our government. P. 271 U. S. 523.

11. In view of the history of the Islands, the large and important mercantile interests of Chinese residing there, who are unacquainted with other languages than their own, the above Act of the legislature, in prohibiting them from maintaining a set of account books in Chinese, and thus preventing them from keeping advised of their business and directing its conduct, is not within the police power, but is arbitrary and discriminatory, and deprives them of liberty and property without due process of law and denies them the equal protection of the laws, in violation of the Philippine Bill of Rights. P. 271 U. S. 524.

Reversed.

Certiorari to a judgment of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands denying an original petition for a writ of prohibition against officials in the Philippine Islands to prevent enforcement by criminal proceedings of an Act of the legislature making it an offense to keep business account books in any language except English, Spanish, or a Filipino dialect.

Page 271 U. S. 506

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